The derecho aftermath will be around for a long time

Notes from Grundy County Conservation

Following the August Derecho damage at Wolf Creek and the Comet Trail, I provided you a news column with some information regarding the storm and subsequent cleanup. This storm proved to be the worst damage of anything I have experienced in my over 40 years with Grundy County.

Four and five man conservation department crews worked almost solidly at Wolf Creek during the first several weeks following. Then it was over to the Comet Trail to clear the pathway from one and a half miles west of Wolf Creek to Conrad. Attempts to secure a tree service were unsuccessful, so when ground clearance at Wolf Creek had been accomplished we turned to rental of a 60-foot lift to address the many, many “hangers” that were present. Sometimes called “widowmakers”, these needed addressed before the park could be safely opened for use by the public.

We were fortunate to have two Marshall County scout troops that volunteered some time picking up smaller branches and limbs.

But the work at Wolf Creek will continue for months – no years.

Because while the groomed, developed portions of Wolf Creek are addressed, the tree plantations and wildlife management portions of that area remain a mass of twisted and downed treetops. In fact, these areas are in many ways in worse condition. These areas are at the mercy of nature to slowly degrade and become ecosystem nutrients. This will take many years.

Some grass hiking trails in the park will eventually be cleared and others will require rerouting. It will be a slow and long-term process.

This storm changed the feel and the character of Wolf Creek Park for what could be several lifetimes. I say this because oak trees lost were in excess of 150 years old. Standing in the park, I am struck by the openness of the canopy that remains. So much open sky. But this spring, the plan is to begin replacement of trees lost in the developed portion of Wolf Creek – the picnic and camping areas. Some will come from our own park areas using the department’s tree-spade with many more container trees purchased from private nurseries. Generations from now, our grandchildren will reap the rewards of this effort.

One project that will come from the storm was not planned and involves two trees flanking the playground. Two tree trunks were left standing to be crafted by a chainsaw artist.